An interview with Professor Ebbinghaus


This interview with Professor Bernhard Ebbinghaus, who became our Head of Department in October, was written for our alumni e-news. If you are a Barnett House alumni and you are not subscribed to our updates, please head here to find out more. 

1. What influenced your decision to join DSPI this year?

I was very excited to join the Department of Social Policy and Intervention as I knew about its world-class research from international collaborations and its stellar rankings. Coming from a leading sociology department in Germany, the Professorship in Social Policy provides me the opportunity to teach comparative social policy in an interdisciplinary department to graduate students from around the world. The unique collegiate university (I am a Senior Research Fellow of Green Templeton College and associate member of Nuffield) allows further inspiring encounters with international students and colleagues across many disciplines. Moreover, DSPI is a perfect place to do policy-relevant research on the politics and consequences of social policies that aim to address social risks and inequalities. Some asked why I would move to the UK despite Brexit, but I feel that Oxford as a global research university is the right place to challenge any limits to borderless academic exchange.

2. What are you looking forward to achieving as new Head of Department?

Being Head of Department is an opportunity to work together with our faculty, researchers and administrative staff in further developing an excellent interdisciplinary department for the next three years. At Mannheim I gained experience of leading the largest social research institute at a German university and built up a graduate school for economics and social sciences. Taking over the headship has been facilitated by the collegial advice and smooth transition provided by Dr Rebecca Surender, who has led the department over the last two years while taking on important university responsibilities as Pro Vice Chancellor on Equality and Diversity. I will build upon the tradition of Barnett House in pursuing societally relevant social research and on its major achievements of the last decade. I look forward to working with my colleagues to maintain our leading position in the research and teaching of comparative social policy as well as evidence-based social intervention and policy-evaluation. Our new website is just the start of making our research more globally known and promoting its societal impact.     

3. What do you consider to be the main opportunities and challenges ahead for the Department?

The Department has great potential to contribute to the global demand on pressing societal issues. Recently there has been much academic and public interest in social inequality, early intervention and policy impact, key concerns of our Department. We will further develop our policy evaluation component for our students. We will also seek to develop additional scholarship opportunities for doctoral students and continue applying for external funded research projects. Over the next months there will be opportunities to recruit new faculty in order to complement and balance our key research priorities. Maintaining a leading position on the REF 2021 ranking will be on our agenda for the coming years: our reputation and resources depend on it. Given a strong European profile thus far, further challenges are the uncertainties of Brexit for students, staff members and research funding. We will seek to adopt a more global strategy and we will reach out beyond current funding to meet these challenges.